How long is a piece of string?
When we’re talking about how long your landing page should be, we’re often asking essentially that question: how long is a piece of string?
Answer: as long as it needs to be.
Now, in matters of tying things up with string – whether you’re a hog-tier or Christian Grey – you can usually sort out rather quickly how long your piece of string needs to be. It should be long enough to wrap at least twice around that which you’re tying up, with a few extra inches on either end to allow for a knot. There are variations on this, but as long as the string achieves its goal of binding, well, that’s how long it needs to be.
But in matters of creating landing pages, determining ideal length is not quite so easy.
As with string, the length should likely be determined by your goal; if your page goal is to move a visitor to sign up to get your free ebook, then the page should go as long as it takes to achieve that goal. However, unlike with string, on our landing pages the pieces rarely connect to form a knot – we rarely reach our goal.
Our conversion rates stink. We can’t seem to give away our stuff. And, in the absence of knowing what’s keeping the page from performing, we’re forced to make assumptions…
Our Assumptions About Writing Landing Pages
Are Often Based on What We’ve Been Told
More arguments exist for being succinct – for getting to the proverbial point – than for taking one’s time communicating a message.
Strunk & White promoted lean writing. Hemingway and the modernists were the same. And you’ve probably heard this classic quote, which has been attributed to both Mark Twain and Blaise Pascal:
“I’m sorry I’ve had to write you such a long letter, but I didn’t have time to write you a short one.”
We’ve been taught that, if writing is a piece of string, good writing is a very short one. Fast forward to the world of Web 2.0, and we’ve been told that, nine times out of ten, people don’t read online – and, if they do, it’s only in bits and pieces. Writing for the web is the shortest possible piece of string. Writing a landing page is an exercise in whittling away at the words until the few surviving ones are their shortest synonyms, which are then strung together in fragmented sentences…
…Which is not to say that none of that is true. But is it all right?
Is the best page the shortest page?
Do you need more than a headline and a call to action on your landing page, or is that sufficient?
Are most landing pages too long? Is that what’s suppressing your conversions?
How do you know when you’ve said enough? How much needs to be said to help your visitor complete the task at hand and help your page perform as it’s intended to?
That’s the entire page. In fact, that’s the entire site – or, at least, it’s as much of the site as is presented to those who haven’t signed up. To help flesh out for whom this page is intended, I understand that developer-types are most likely to hear about Small Spec – possibly via Chasing Product and other spaces like Hacker News – and then come visit.
So I have a simple question for you now, dear reader in a world without readers. Tell me what you think:
Now check out my 2-minute teardown of SmallSpec… which is, for the first time ever, almost exactly 2 minutes long.
Chris is a bit of a Word Nerd, and I have every reason to believe he’s heard that an effective writer says in fewer words what an ineffective one takes many to communicate. He’s very smart. So he’s probably aiming quite intentionally for succinct.
If you were Chris, what would you do differently? What would you keep exactly as it is? What important piece(s) of information are missing for you, if any? Put it in the comments below.